The Market House was built in 1771 by the first Marquess of Londonderry, Robert Stewart (of Mount Stewart). While Sir Hugh Montgomery had made the Priory the centre of the market town he developed in the early 17th century, now the Market House would be the focus of a new layout for the town.
The building was a key location in the 1798 Rebellion when a party of 300 United Irishmen, under the leadership of a young Presbyterian minister, David Baillie Warden, took both it and the town. Earlier in the day of June 10th, they had assembled at Movilla and marched towards the Market House with local men like Samuel Rankin and William Davidson to the fore. They formed a line and attacked but were soon driven back by rapid fire from the York Fencible Infantry inside the building. Following several deaths (such as the Maxwell Brothers, buried in Whitechurch graveyard in Ballywalter), the rebels dispersed. But soon they were joined by a large contingent of United Irishmen from Bangor and making their way back were delighted to find the York Fencibles had retreated to Belfast. Not only Newtownards but the whole of North Down and the Ards was now in rebel hands.
Good, public parking nearby. The refurbished Market House now hosts Ards Arts Centre. Call 028 9181 0803 or visit www.ards-council.gov.uk for more information.